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Cormac McCarthy's The Road - What caused the global castrophe?

  1. Jun 16, 2011 #1
    Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I’m trying to figure out the cause of the global catastrophe that occurred as part of the book’s back-story; not from clues in the book but from what I know about Cormac McCarthy. The book’s only sentence about the event reads “A long shear of light followed by a series of low concussions.” Well, that isn’t much to go by, but knowing that CC is a member of the Santa Fe Institute and is a friend of Murray Gell-Mann, I assume he is more than a passing knowledge of physics and science in general. I suspect he read “Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation,” by Lynn Eden. However, nothing in the book indicates radiation but there seems to have been a global fire. So, my hunch he was thinking of an impact event.

    Anyone have some other ideas? If you haven’t read the book you are missing a great work of American literature.
     
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  3. Jun 16, 2011 #2

    ideasrule

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    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    It was deliberately left ambiguous. In fact, I bet the author didn't even have in mind what he wanted the catastrophe to be, since he cared about the outcome and not the cause.
     
  4. Jun 16, 2011 #3
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    Because of the persistently dark skys, ash, and attention to clean water - I generally presumed it to be a nuclear winter of sorts. An impact event is just as plausable as any major fires could spread the ash as well.

    Also, who's to say it was a global disaster? Maybe just the US was ravaged and isolated.
     
  5. Jun 17, 2011 #4
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I must read the book. The movie was good, but it feels like a story that would be better told in a book. With regards to the catastrophe, it's not necessary to know the how/why and I liked that it was left ambiguous, otherwise the focus would have been on the event, more than the quiet, painful struggle to survive which was what made the story great.
     
  6. Jun 17, 2011 #5
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    A lot of people considered it a nuclear winder; however, the cities are burnt but not flattened and it appears there was a mass exodus out of them given the miles of incinerated cars they encounter. I think it was global—remember the derelict yacht they find? It was flagged in the Canary Islands but had drifted to the U.S.

    In interviews CC has stated he was deliberately ambiguous about the nature of the disaster but its fun to speculate. I’m sure he had something in mind, given his active association with physicists and astronomers.
     
  7. Jun 17, 2011 #6

    Ryan_m_b

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    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    Personally I don't think he had anything in mind. If he had chosen something it would have changed the way people perceive the book, rather than being a story of survival people would treat it as a warning about some aspect of human life.

    If he had chosen nuclear war or asteroid impact or (whisper it) climate change the book would have been bogged down by people coming to it with their own preconceived ideals said subjects. Rather than been a discussion on the nature of humanity in a crisis and how high and low we can go a lot of discussion would have switched to "McCarthy say's that X could wipe out the world but this is a foolish argument typical of a politically [Insert word "left" or "right" here] proponent. Here's my ad hoc 3000 word critique on the likely hood of X causing eco-collapse with absolutely no reference to the message of the book"
     
  8. Jun 19, 2011 #7
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I never read the book but I saw the movie.

    I believe that he is trying to make a point by leaving it ambiguous. One of the themes of the movie is that you have to do what you must to survive and you shouldn't regret your actions (i.e. the past). Also, if the disaster was revealed then it seems as if the movie is trying to make a point about _____ when it is really about the instinct to survive, the point of life, etc. It's like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.
     
  9. Jun 19, 2011 #8
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I've read the book before the movie came out. I don't think McCarthy mentioned a word about what the catastrophe was. But there is another hint which might suggest something:

    The father and his son found a well stocked cache of food, supplies, and various survival gear.
    This would suggest someone was anticipating a long term disaster which could take months or years to develop. On the other hand, a full scale nuclear war could develop rather quickly, leaving people less time to prepare.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  10. Jun 20, 2011 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I'm not so sure, have you seen some of the fallout shelters people built in the cold war?
     
  11. Jun 20, 2011 #10
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    Good points; however, the man found a bag of gold krugerrands in the shelter. Those were big amongst survivalist types back in the 1980s which indicates the cache could have been there for some time.
     
  12. Jun 20, 2011 #11
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    I had a feeling that the setting of the story was in the present, years after the cold war was over. I would assume most of the fallout shelters in the back country are abandoned and no longer maintained. And so, the chances of finding one at random would be very low if a new global disaster developed quickly.
     
  13. Jun 21, 2011 #12
    Re: Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" - What caused the global castrophe?

    It was a bit of deus ex machina, finding the fallout shelter like that.
     
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